Huge ‘Pulse of the Dead’ in the Holocaust was even worse than feared, researchers find

A winter view of Auschwitz II-Birkenau, a German Nazi concentration and extermination camp, just a few days before the 73rd anniversary of the liberation of the camp. On Tuesday, January 23, 2018, in Auschwitz II-Birkenau concentration camp, Vienna, austria, and Poland.
(Getty Images)

Nazi Germany was the extermination of the European Jews during the Holocaust, one of humanity’s most despicable campaigns of violence, characterized by a much more ruthlessly efficient “kill rate” than previously understood, according to new research.

During the Holocaust of millions of Jews, together with members of different ethnic groups, gay men, prisoners of war from the Soviet union, and others, were systematically murdered in concentration camps, including Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Belzec. They arrived in the extermination camps, in the first place by the train and many people died in the overcrowded freight cars.

“Even though the Holocaust is one of the best documented genocides in a historical sense, there is surprisingly little quantitative data are available,” says biomathematician Lewi Stone of Tel Aviv University in Israel.


“Because the Nazis destroyed almost all the records of the massacre, it is important to try to figure out what actually happened at the time.”

Operation Reinhard is known as one of the deadliest phases of the Holocaust.

Stone studied what he acknowledges is an “exceptional dataset”: railway transport records that detail the comings and goings of “special trains” on the site of the German Railways. Stone describes that network as a ” critical component of the Nazi blueprint for genocide and destruction.”

In the space of about three months – roughly from August to October 1942 – the train records show what Stone calls a “pulse of death”: an extreme phase of “hyperintense kill” in which the slaughter rate spiked for about 100 days.

During this frightening period, the data suggest that about 1.47 million Jews – more than a quarter of all Jews killed during the six years of the second world War – were killed by a ramp-up of the coordinated train transports and gas chamber executions.


The research suggests that the Nazis killed their victims during this time, at stunningly high speeds — approximately 15,000 people per day.

A number of other researchers have said that the study of the mortality estimates are too high.

“The Holocaust stands out as a demonstration of how the efficient machinery of the government was enabled, people in an unprecedented way,” Stone writes in The Conversation.

“This is the most important lesson of the Holocaust, which I believe should not be forgotten.”

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